54 chapter 3: Mental health
Disabled girls may grow up separate from other children and not have the chance
to develop friendships. They may not learn the social skills they need to build
strong relationships as adults. Being alone and isolated creates stress. Having friends
and being part of a community is important for good self-esteem. A teenage girl
who has a disability also needs support to develop
confidence about her sexuality so she can form close
personal and sexual relationships (see page 142).
Women with disabilities are less likely to receive
training for work so they can earn money. If they have
not had a chance to gain job skills, it is harder for
them to support their families and themselves.
Common mental health problems
Although there are many kinds of mental health problems, the most common ones
are anxiety, depression, reactions to trauma, and misuse of alcohol or drugs.
Depression (Extreme sadness or feeling nothing at all)
Depression affects almost 5 in 10 women with disabilities, compared
with around 2 in 10 people without disabilities. This is not surprising,
because many girls with disabilities do not get the chance to get
an education, develop confidence, or learn how to do things for
themselves. As you grow older, the social barriers and changes in
your health that make it more difficult to do as much as you used
to, make you more likely to feel unhappy and depressed.
• feeling sad most of the time
• difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
• difficulty thinking clearly
• loss of interest in pleasurable activities, eating, or sex
• physical problems, such as headaches or intestinal problems, that are not
caused by illness
• lack of energy for daily activities
• thinking about death or suicide
Although it is hard to believe when you are suffering from it, depression does not
last forever. See pages 60 to 69 for ways to overcome depression.
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007